Friday, 27 January 2012

Me and Bob: Did I get breast cancer because of stress, adrenaline and diabetes! The research around this …

I have always had this feeling that the stress I have gone through in last five years or so may have contributed to one of the reasons why I got breast cancer.  Think of all that Adeline running through my body for many years - where did it go? It seemed more than coincident that once I got away from my stressful situation got through the depression and was just getting to a place where I was sorting out my life that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Of course I probably had it for a while not knowing and on hindsight there were other signs that things were not quite right with me health wise before diagnosis– I had begun to have cramps in my muscles which I hadn’t followed up, feeling more tired than I should have done and lacked energy.  You should have seen me try Chi Che – I couldn’t relax enough was uncoordinated and just couldn’t do it - LOL!

 Jackie  Roberge  a healing coach (Visit Blog at: says  Yes, almost all the clients I have coached (most of them breast cancer patients) say they had stressful events leading up to their cancer.  Divorce, a difficult job situation, family issues etc.  Long term stress does weaken the immune system and as you know a cancer tumour takes years to develop.  It often happens that when someone finally slows down something hits them, the adrenaline rush is over and the body is vulnerable because it is not used to relaxing. If you think of the body's relaxation response (which helps flush out the accumulated stress hormones) like a muscle, it is a muscle that has not been used and therefore is weak.”
Then Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer (from a more medical background and a partner with breast cancer – hoping to become a coach) asked me the question that which I hadn’t considered before - had I thought about the link from diabetes to breast cancer?

Not that I can do anything about having breast cancer now, but it may help me and others in a way to look at their health in a different way and find steps to take in the future to  prevent the cancer coming back - So what is the view out there on the worldwide web?
Basically there is no real consensus that stress increases a person’s susceptibility to cancer.  Scientists do know however that psychological stress can affect the immune system, the body’s defence against infection and disease.

So here is some more science! 
Psychological stress refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources. Examples of stressful situations are marital problems, death of a loved one, abuse, health problems, and financial crises.  To be honest most of us goes through any of these circumstances in our life time, so is it the way we react and cope to the stress that matters?

The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). The body produces these stress hormones to help a person react to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, but chronic (persisting or progressing over a long period of time) high levels of stress are thought to be harmful. Stress that is chronic can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and various other illnesses. Stress also can lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as overeating, smoking, or abusing drugs or alcohol, that may affect cancer risk.
Studies done over the past 30 years that examined the relationship between psychological factors, including stress, and cancer risk have produced conflicting results. Although the results of some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven.

Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system, which in turn may affect the incidence of virus-associated cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas  and more recent research with animal models (animals with a disease that is similar to or the same as a disease in humans) suggests that the body’s neuroendocrine response (release of hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system) can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth.
Every day, our bodies are exposed to cancer-causing agents in the air, food and water we’re exposed to. Typically, our immune system recognizes those abnormal cells and kills them before they produce a tumour. There are three important things that can happen to prevent cancer from developing — the immune system can prevent the agents from invading in the first place, DNA can repair the abnormal cells or killer T-cells can kill off cancer cells.
So there may be a tenuous connection between stress, the immune system and cancer after all? Especially if stress decreases the body’s ability to fight disease, it loses the ability to kill cancer cells.

Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer  says
Immune system: Chronic inflammation makes our immune system less effective in attacking diseases. We have only so much "immune" capacity based on the number of white blood cells such as lymphocytes, nutriphils, macrophages, NK cells, and what have you. These are like an army directed to defend the body against an attack. This means other diseases can develop. Cancer is nothing more than our own cells dividing uncontrollably. EVERYBODY has cancer cells in them every day. The difference between those developing solid tumours and others is that, normally, our body detects these "rogue cells" and kills them. With a weakened immune system, our internal soldiers can't cope with the enemy, and become overwhelmed.”

Part of the reason stress may be linked to cancer, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., (assistant professor of behavioural sciences at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) said, is simply that when people are under pressure they make poor choices — they begin smoking, stop exercising, start eating unhealthy foods — but in his studies he also did say of the people he had studied all had experienced traumatic life events or losses in previous  years  and had significantly higher rates in particular of breast cancer.
This does get confusing!

So is there link to cancer through adrenaline?  Another study has shown that although it is commonly assumed that too much adrenaline (epinephrine) leads to cancer, the reverse is true. People with cancer possess virtually no adrenaline in their cells. Instead, it has been discovered, the cells of cancer victims are overloaded with insulin and too much sugar.  Now this is interesting especially looking at diabetes!
 Science bit again - there is lots of it!

When bombarded by stress, which requires a constant pumping out of adrenaline, the body ultimately becomes exhausted and is unable to process adrenaline. This causes the cells to fill up with sugar which, in turn, results in two outcomes: fermentation, and very rapid cell division. These two processes are virtually descriptive of cancer, an anaerobic (without oxygen) process that relies on fermentation, not oxidation.
 Another factor is a diet laden with high-sugar foods.  If this study is correct then implications are not only regarding the role of stress in the onset of cancer, but also the part played by a high glycaemic, processed diet. The high GI diet is turning out to be the major culprit in much modern-day degenerative illness. As French doctor Michel Montignac found, a diet laden with foods that transform quickly into sugar overwhelms the body with insulin, and leads to diabetes, heart problems and all manner of other degenerative disease. Removing high glycaemic-index foods from the diet often normalises cholesterol levels

Mark Selawry @MSBreastCancer  says
Acid: Chronic inflammation also leads to an acidic pH in the body, which not only renders our immune system less able, but also creates a perfect environment for solid tumours and bacteria to thrive. Tumours are fed anaerobically, without oxygen, primarily by sugar. This is why too much sugar and carbs are considered "inflammatory". Stress, by the way, also creates an acid state in the body because of the hormone cortisol released, which competes with other "good" hormones (including the estradiols mentioned below). How do we know sugar feeds cancer? Because cancer has 20x more sugar receptors than normal cells. The way doctors test for metastasis is by giving people a PET (Positive Emission Tomography) exam, where a patient gets a SUGAR solution with a radio isotope, which concentrates in the tumours (because they gobble it up). Although most oncologists are well aware of how PET exams work, very few will ever ask a patient to cut back on sugar intake.”

Breast tissue contains a very dense supply of sympathetic nerves and is heavily exposed to adrenaline during times of stress.  It was first discovered by Canadian scientists that breast cancer cells do express receptors for norepinephrine which is released when one is stressed.  When these scientists carried out a series of laboratory experiments, they found that norepinephrine significantly increased the growth of breast cancer cells and increased their ability to spread to other parts of the body.
When faced with a major trauma, Stress hormone cortisol levels remain at high levels and skyrocket directly suppressing immune system, whose job it is to fight cancer cells that exist in every human body.  People in high stress generally mean a person cannot produce enough melatonin during deep sleep and cannot sleep well.  Cancer cell growth inhibited by Melatonin. This means are when people unable cope with stress, the cancer cells are now free to multiply.  Adrenaline are also in high levels initially but are then depleted and drained overtime.  For cancer personality this a bad news.

Cancer personality – what is that!!  I read an interesting study on this and will put it one of my next blogs – will open your eyes and perhaps make you a little angry and emotional – like it did me!
 One of the functions of adrenaline is for transporting sugar away from cells. The body become acidic when too much sugar in cells in the body.  This means normal body cells low of oxygen and cannot breathe properly. As demonstrated by Nobel  prize winner Otto Warburg, cancer cells grow well in a low oxygen state. Cancer cells also thrive on sugar to fulfil their energy needs. Put simply , high stress causes a high levels of cortisol that suppress immune system and depletion of adrenaline leads to low oxygen for body cells and too much sugar in the body resulting a good environment for cancer cells to grow in your body.

Cancer occurs at the cellular level. And there are a number of factors that create stress on the body's cells, causing them to become (1) depleted of adrenaline, (2) high in sugar and (3) low in oxygen, where they are more prone to mutate and become cancerous. The higher the sugar content of the cell caused by a depletion of adrenaline, and the lower the oxygen content, the greater the likelihood of normal cells mutating and becoming cancerous.
 In the vast majority of those with cancer, there exists both a combination of psychological as well as physiological stresses that have contributed to the body's cells becoming depleted of adrenaline, high in sugar and low in oxygen, causing them to mutate and become cancerous.  The factors that contribute to a normal cell becoming depleted of adrenaline, high in sugar and low in oxygen include (and are not limited to): Poor nutrition, Chemicals, Toxins, EMF Radiation, Parasites, Liver / Colon / Kidney disease, Lack of Exercise, etc.,  and such stresses as (and are not limited to): Inescapable Shock, Repressed Feelings, Depression, Isolation, Poor Sleep, Emotional Trauma, External Conflict, etc.

So for me it seems that having Type 1 diabetes, high stress and my adrenaline being depleted may have all been contributing factors to getting breast cancer!  So are there studies that show a positive link to breast cancer and diabetes?
For years, scientists have looked at a possible link between breast cancer and diabetes. It has been suggested that high levels of insulin may increase the risk of breast cancer. However, many factors, such as obesity increase the risk for both breast cancer and diabetes, so it has been difficult for scientists to discover whether diabetes itself is the issue. Still, diabetes research shows that women with diabetes have a 20% higher risk of breast cancer than women without diabetes.

One recent study suggests that high blood sugar increases the risk of breast cancer even among pre-menopausal women. Significant weight gain (more than 55 pounds since age 18, or 22 pounds after menopause) can also increase risk of breast can “Having a high insulin level has been shown to have some growth effect on breast cancer cells,” said Farrar and diabetics' changes in insulin and blood sugar levels could make it easier for breast tumours to grow, researchers hypothesize.
Reports also state that up to four years after a diabetes diagnosis, women of any age had a 37 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer particularly in Type 2 diabetics, he said. Olsson also found a link between abnormally low levels of blood lipids or fats, mostly cholesterol, and a 25 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Women with higher cholesterol levels had a lower risk, he found.  Much more research has to be done.

Wow trying to filter all the information out there is not as easy as it seems especially being a lay person and no expert.  I hope that you haven’t found this all too technical and boring!  My next blogs are going to look at the cancer personality (!), nutrition, the research around of stress busters for cancer patients – again quoting Jackie Roberge, and Mark Selawry and introducing guest blogger David Haas - and my New Year resolutions round all of this!   
I would be extremely interested to hear from other bloggers on their take on this as well – please do tweet me and I will give you my contact details.
And finally here are some knowledge quotes so don’t judge me too harshly for such a long blog this time round!

The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
Frank Herbert (1920 - 1986)

 Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.
Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931), The Voice of the Master

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.
Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850)

 To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.
Olin Miller

 Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.
Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), quoted in Boswell's

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Me and Bob and the January Blues

Despite it being both mine and my son’s birthdays towards the end of January, like many other people I have the January blues!  Cold, dark and damp dreary days in the UK, waiting for the next pay check to come in having spent all my cash on Christmas (some of you it may also be on the January sales as well), wanting to feel so much better and more refreshed.  After my last chemo it has taken me a little time to pick up again, I have lost most of fingernails and now one toenail as well – but I am getting more energised each day, and more positive as time goes but want to run before I can walk!  I do feel that I am still stuck in limbo waiting for things to surge ahead, finding a new home and finishing treatment, getting back to work full-time and then getting my finances straight again.  It’s all still a waiting game. It has taken a little while to slip  back into a proper routine at work – getting up in the morning is a nightmare, still having a few days off sick so still not getting a full wage (although am claiming benefits, and have help from family which has been a huge help).  However, I can’t wait to go on holiday!   I am moving up the council list slowly but have to get to number 3 to be offered a new home (number 8 when I last checked a couple of weeks ago).  Apparently the longer I am on the list the higher up I move unless someone more urgent comes along – I have to March so hopefully in the next couple of weeks there will be more news on this front.  Radiotherapy starts on the 1st of February and finishes on the 21st – consecutive weekday afternoons with weekends off.  I am working mornings, going to treatment in the afternoons and then off to rest at home – tiredness usually comes in the second week I am told so will have to see how things go.  Everyone I have spoken to has told me that radiotherapy is “a piece of cake compared to chemo”.  

 I also had another health scare recently having a major diabetic hypo where the paramedics were called out.  I have never gone so low in my sugars before (0.9) and it was frightening to have no control over what I was doing or saying, being in a kind of waking confused dream so everything made sense to me but not to others around me.  I tried to kick the poor paramedic several times, wouldn’t co-operate with treatment he wanted to give me and blew raspberries at him – shame because he was quite dishy!!  My son said it was as if I reverted to babyhood and being very drunk at the same time.  I am extremely proud of my son on how he handled everything and now he is fully briefed what to do if it ever happens again.  Now my sugars are all over the place, high and low.  The doctors told me I shouldn’t be surprised that my sugars are not very controllable at the moment due to all the treatment I have been through and want me to keep them high so I can recover my hypo awareness –they are monitoring me and I am testing more regularly.  I have tended to forget I have Type 1 diabetes as well as cancer!

Talking about New Year resolutions I am determined to stick to mine this year – but I am taking it slowly a month at a time while I recover and not stress too much if I slip up.  It’s the usual resolutions we all make around this time of year: exercise, nutrition, relaxation, finances, family and happiness - all revolving around my cancer journey.  (Giving up smoking is last on my list but who knows I may also be able to achieve in doing this as well this year!)  In this connection focusing particularly around exercise, nutrition and relaxation I have done some research, and have been in contact with some other Twitter friends and in my next few blogs will have guest blogger – David Haas (Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance), extracts from advice and thoughts given to me by Mark@MSBreastCancer and Jackie Roberge whose website can be found at (thank you for giving me permission); as well as what I have found of interest on the net, my thoughts and intentions around each aspect of my New Year resolutions.  Watch this space …..  If anyone else would like to contribute to these blogs please tweet me!

Giggle of the week – or one of those outrageous remarks:  a man in a local shop commented that he loved skin-headed women and found it sexy – would I take of my hat and show him my bald head.  I couldn’t get away fast enough!

 As I reach another year older, and I think I can say a little wiser, I count my blessing and despite having the January blues I am very hopeful for the year ahead and have much to look forward to.

 I found this quote recently which I do hope you like as much as I do:

The most beautiful people we have known are those
who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle,
known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and
an understanding of life that fills them with compassion,
gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

-          Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Pictures of life for me and Bob

I have five pictures at home that mean a great deal for me and were obtained at certain points in my life that have had meaning.

My first is the Monet print of Soleil Levant 1865 which was a wedding present from my boss.  This print has been has been through a lot, has had things thrown on it, nearly burned by a candle being lighted below it and being moved to a new place to live.  But it has survived intact – in fact a bit like me!  It also reminds me of when I worked in London by the River Thames.  At times of sunset, stormy and sunny days the light and colours on the Thames would amaze and invigorate me, and sometimes all you could do is just wonder in awe of the creator’s canvas.

The second is a signed print by Margaret Chapman picked up at a local market stall; it just makes me smile with the quirkiness of its characters and sat in my kitchen for a long time.  It was brought in happier times and brings back those happy memories before things turned sour in my marriage.

The third is an original cartoon sketch of Larry the Lamb getting dressed for bed.  I had gone to visit an exclusive hotel in London as part of my job, just before going on maternity leave – admired the picture and was then given it!  The picture I gifted to my son’s room and will always remind me of the wonder of giving birth and the love I have for my son.

The fourth is a print of In the Meadow by Paula Nightingale.  A little twee but is of young girl and her cat sitting in a meadow of spring flowers.  The cat reminds of my cat I had at 10 years old and brings back a time of simple happiness and innocence of childhood and the sense of freedom I had as a child from adult responsibility and the reality of life.  Entirely the romantic and full of imagination how differently my life has turned out than what I thought as child.  I would like to write a letter to that child giving advice but I believe there should be no such thing as regrets, experience is what makes us what we are today and I don’t dislike the person I am now.

The fifth picture is the one in my bedroom, the one I look at from my bed each evening when I retire and the one I wake up to.  I don’t know who it is painted by, but is of a silhouette of a person and a child walking along a beach at sunset.  I searched high and low for the perfect picture for my bedroom, I wanted something soothing, something to get lost in – and I found this picture just before my first cancer operation to remove my breast.  I sometimes imagine that is me and my son walking along the beach wallowing in the magnificent sunset and hearing the waves gently lapping at the shore and that my son will suddenly let go of my hand and run laughing excitedly splashing in the waves.  Sometimes I imagine I am the child walking hand in hand with God, like the Footprints in the Sand poem (see below), trustingly being led and guided and carried in times of distress.  Other times I am the artist or an observer sitting on the rocks watching these two with a smile.  Sometimes the people are walking towards me and sometimes away and sometimes I imagine just walking into the picture radiating with love.  The light in my bedroom changes the light and colours of the picture and sometimes rather than sunset it looks like dawn. Over the last seven months I have spent a lot of time in my bedroom and the picture soothes and comforts me, and helps me rest. 

Different pictures can evoke different emotions and memories, just like certain pieces of music. Some believe that there Healing pictures where through the artists, divine energy of the images will come through their work and a person can receive a spiritual or physical healing just by viewing the art with an open heart, believe and trust. The pictures can be seen as a message to open the spiritual consciousness and as an important contribution to support the healing of the world. I believe the picture I have in my bedroom is such picture and was a gift from the universe when I needed it most.

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Me and Bob, Living with Cancer: ME, BOB AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

Me and Bob, Living with Cancer: ME, BOB AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR: I was going to do a completely different blog today, one about obligation and being obliged, but will keep it for later. I have had a lot ...


I was going to do a completely different blog today, one about obligation and being obliged, but will keep it for later.  I have had a lot of time to reflect this week waiting for the old year to pass to go into the New Year. 

The old year has been mostly about fighting cancer, dealing with the exhaustion – I had expected to feel very tired – but had not quite expected how much this tiredness incapacitated me -  and the longer the chemo sessions went on the harder it got. The two ops brought its own challenges and tiredness but nothing compared to having chemo. Three to five days of just being unable to move at all – three of those on and off in bed having dreamless sleeps.  The first three chemo’s – FEC – for me were much better but the last three sessions of TAX much worse as muscle pains kicked in as well along with the skin peeling off my hands and the flaky feet that has made it hard to walk.  I could cope with the mouth sores and thrush with medication making it a little bit better, but could cope much less with losing my appetite, sense of smell and taste buds – for eating is a comfort thing for me and that has taken away as well.  Even when my taste buds start to come back I always feel that saltiness in my mouth.  Forcing yourself to eat tasteless food is no fun at all!  Feeling cold most of time and keeping warm in front of the fire. Losing my hair was an emotional time for a little while, but I have now got used to having no eyebrows, eyelashes and hair – although having a horrible crusty nose each day is a little disconcerting and is now causing small nose bleeds.  I also now have the prospect of losing some nails both on my feet and fingers which coming after my last chemo is distressing – why now?  Having my last chemo and a lesser dose I stupidly thought the reactions wouldn’t be so bad this time – but I was wrong and right now I feel like my poor body is completely broken with all that accumulated poison and my emotions all over the place having had a Christmas so different.  I should be happy right? I’ve had my last chemo and it can only now get better? This is what others say to me and what I tell myself.
I have coped over the last year sometimes well with hope and positivity and sometimes not as well with negativity and sensitivity – it has been a roller-coaster of emotions – sometimes feeling lonely, angry and isolated and other times overwhelmed with the kindness around me. I have made new relationship but have lost others, been surprised and delighted by people but also disappointed with others who though were close to me which has been a sad realisation.  But I have coped and gone forwards small steps at a time, not only have I gone to work part-time but have also dealt with the daily dramas of life (some which I think should not have happened in the first place and could have been dealt with differently and situations that caused some people to become angry with me and  they then distanced themselves when I needed them most), financial instability (which is actually not something new to me but has just been made worse by having cancer) and dealing with the emotions of myself and others that sometimes have not been easy.  In ways it has been a journey of discovery from losing myself to finding myself again and delving into hidden strengths and resourcefulness which I didn’t know I had and also getting to know my previously hidden weaknesses.  What a year it has been.

The New Year brings a few hurdles to get through first – coping with the last reactions of chemo which will not go away fast and how long will it take for the poison to get out of my body and my bone marrow to repair itself, how will I react to radiotherapy and working through that, how will I cope getting back to work full-time and then finally will I find a new place to live that will be good for both me and my son?
So what will the New Year bring? Will it be one of hope and a new beginnings:  Will it be one of recovery and getting back a life which has been on hold; one of building up on new and old relationships and trying to get back those relationships that have been lost: one of opportunity, love and stabability - on the home, work front and financially: one of planning and things to look forward to: of happy surprises? I think most of us wish for these things whether we are ill or not and I am not sure having high expectations is a completely good thing in regards to year ahead so I will keep my expectations low and hope for a good outcome!  I more than anyone realise we never know what is around the corner but I do so want to be a totally different place this time next year – so watch this blogging space!! 

With a little more energy, last night I went round to my friend’s house and her family and spent a traditional time playing charades and games and even became a little merry (which I haven’t done for a while) and brought in the New Year with laughter, champagne and sparklers without waking to a hangover.
I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year.  Stay as positive and healthy as you can and enjoy life as much as you can – it’s a gift not to be wasted!